We love Basecamp. We’ve been using it for over 5 years now and we find it to be the perfect tool for keeping track of all our projects and keeping our clients in the loop.

We were excited to hear about 37Signals’ recent decision to rebrand as Basecamp, focusing all of their resources on the tool and backing away from their other products. We can’t wait to see how Basecamp evolves in the future.

While the basics of Basecamp are pretty simple, we’ve learned a few lessons in our 5 years using it and we’ve also developed a few of our own ways of using Basecamp to manage our projects. We’d love to share what we’ve learned…

Use Basecamp for everything!

One of the biggest benefits of Basecamp is that it enables to you keep a complete audit trail for each project. This audit trail makes it much easier to retrospectively manage any enquiries after a project is finished. It’s also invaluable to people who are handed or invited into a project part way through or for anyone reviewing the project in the future.

If you’re not recording everything in Basecamp, you are not leaving a complete audit trail. In other words, you’re losing one of the biggest benefits of Basecamp.

Within each project, make sure you upload all files, add to-dos, and keep track of dates in the calendar. Make sure all discussions around a project are recorded in Basecamp.

If you’ve had a meeting, write a message about what you discussed. This is also a great way to show a client you’ve listened to them, to demonstrate understanding and to give you both the chance to add something you may have forgotten.

We find some clients prefer to call or email instead of using Basecamp (even though we persuade them to use it), so we add summaries of phone calls as messages and forward emails to Basecamp to make sure everything is kept in one place.

Bucket of love

During any project, whether it’s personal, internal or for a client, you are likely to come up with new thoughts and ideas for improvement along the way. While it’s great to constantly be coming up with new ways to improve your project, implementing these ideas as you go along makes it difficult to actually get anything finished. You can add new features until the cows come home but if you’re not releasing anything, you’re missing key opportunities for user feedback and suggestions.

That’s why we came up with the “bucket of love”.

All the ideas that we and our clients come up with during a project, that are beyond the original scope, go into the bucket of love to-do list in Basecamp. If our clients still like the ideas at the end of a project, or even several months after, we can discuss implementing them.

Risk management

We’ve recently started using Basecamp for risk management. Each project is given a “Risks” to-do list and risks are added as to-do items, assigned H[igh], M[edium] or L[ow]. These items can then be assigned to team members and given deadlines (e.g. for investigating the risk or implementing some mitigating action).

Keeping track of risks in Basecamp also makes it easy for project managers, team members and clients to have a discussion about particular risks, which is recorded and can be referred to in the future.

Managing agile projects

We often prefer agile project management over the traditional waterfall approach. However, this means that we can’t have a single, fixed to-do list for the duration of the project. Instead, features are pulled from a prioritised list (called a backlog) and are only specified in more detail just before we start working on them.

We add backlogs to Basecamp as to-do lists and drag features for upcoming sprints into that sprint’s to-do list.

We’d love to hear how you use Basecamp for managing projects. Join the conversation on Twitter!

Related Stories